As anyone who has set foot in my office can attest, I am not a terrifically organized person. My desk is covered with drifts of paper, and I’ve never managed to use a planner for longer than a week.
So when I started my first job search in grad school, I knew that I would need to work hard to impose order on myself and my search. And as a result of that work, I was able to avoid a lot of unnecessary frustration and mistakes. In my work advising grad students during their job searches, as well, I’ve seen over and over again how practically and psychologically important it can be to stay organized.
The job search is a distinct organizational challenge. Looking for a job is a wildly stressful, complicated affair — especially when you’re also doing all of the stuff that can make grad school overwhelming on its own. All of a sudden, you have what amounts to a whole other complex, time-sucking job on top of wrapping up experiments, finishing your dissertation, grading your students’ work, serving on departmental committees and everything else you signed on for this semester.
Staying organized during a job search can help you keep all of these priorities and responsibilities in balance. It can allow you to more easily keep in mind what the hiring organization cares about as you write applications and prep for interviews. It can help you waste less time on the fiddly administrative parts of looking for a job. And, most important, it can prevent you from taking yourself out of the running for a job through missed deadlines, weird typos or sending a cover letter to Etsy about how much you would love to work at Instagram.
The main things you will need to organize during a job search are information and your time. In the rest of this post, I will offer some things to think about when developing an organizational approach in these areas. I’ll also offer some tips and examples based on my own experience and my work with thousands of grad students.